Why hard work goes unnoticed
Last week I blogged about a candidate who in all rights is a superstar. Unfortunately, from a career standpoint, if you were to talk with her, you would never know it. I love how she puts in the hard work and is so humble, but within the corporate framework, this is unfortunate. When folks don’t know what she has done, they don’t know what she is capable of. She loses and the company loses.
One person’s garbage is another person’s treasure
The candidate didn’t look at her 3.85 GPA, Fortune 20 experience, National Champion cheer squad or black belt as accomplishments. No mention in the resume or during interview practice. She mentioned good grades, martial arts and being a cheerleader, but she talked as a participant. She didn’t quantify her accomplishments or her hard work. Consequently, she just sounded like an average participant.
Since hiring managers are not mind readers, braggadocio dudes with a 2.9 GPA, 6 months of martial arts experience and the ability to do a black flip will sound similarly qualified. Great for our outspoken “dude”, but not so good for our genuinely qualified candidate who didn’t realize she needed to speak up. This example gives new meaning to the saying “Nice guys/girls finish last”.
If you think that hard work or great results will speak for your worth, think again. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hard work makes you dependable. Great work that others know about makes you indispensable. You don’t have to be a braggart to communicate accomplishments.
This week we continue the series on “speaking up” because, in the last few weeks, I have run into phenomenon repeatedly. The first was working with the above-mentioned candidate and I blogged about that here.
The second was when I led a session on High Performance and “How to Manage Your Career”. A discussion point and question that came out of that presentation was:
I am an introvert, I don’t want to brag
“How do I tell my manager what I am working on? I am an introvert and am not comfortable telling anyone about my accomplishments or hard work. It seems like bragging.” Great question and one I hear on a regular basis! (For the record, this trait plagued me personally early in my career.)
Let’s start with a couple of baselines that I hope makes sense:
- High performance will not be noticed if we don’t tell anyone about it. It is tough to manage your career if we don’t share what we did or where we want to go. (After my talk on Managing Your Manager, I did inspire folks a little bit. They said they were going to set stretch goals for themselves. Thing is, they didn’t have plans to tell their manager what the regular goal was. So even if they hit stretch, the manager wouldn’t have thought it was special. DOH!!!!)
- Your manager absolutely WISHES that everyone on their team is updating them on what they are working on and the progress against that goal. How many times have you heard a manager complain: “Joey sucks as an employee. I know exactly what Joey is working on and I hate it when he is pro-active and updates me along the way!”
- We have heard managers bitch over and over: Would someone please tell me WTF Joey does with his time all day! In other words, if they know what we are working on, they won’t be asking this question behind our backs.
So how do you share your accomplishments with your manager without sounding like an ass, braggart, or loud-mouthed salesperson who thinks they piss rosewater and their shit doesn’t stink?
EASY PEASY, I call it manager engagement
The way to tell your manager about your accomplishments is to share what you are going to accomplish – BEFORE you accomplish it. This way, you are updating your manager on progress and when it is done, it is obvious, documented, and publicized. You don’t need to brag or show off your results because your manager was there every step of the journey. They are usually helping you get to the goal and literally anticipating completion.
Instead of telling your manager what you did AFTER you did it, tell your manager what you are GOING TO DO before you do it. Below I give the pros and cons of sharing your hard work after the accomplishments are completed vs sharing what you are going to do in the future.
Accident or purposeful?
If we don’t share what we are working on, it can appear that you are taking credit for an accident that happened. Your manager has reason to think, “Well, that did happen, but you really didn’t have any influence over the process. You were just there, it just happened on your watch”
When we share, you are predicting your results – you are predicting the future. Your results don’t appear as a lucky accident that you are taking credit for. When our manager knows what you are GOING to do, they can see you had influence and direct impact.
Are we working on the right project?
If we don’t share what we are working on ahead of time, we may work a week or 3 months on a project and not know for sure if our project is relevant to our manager. We don’t want to turn in 3 months of work or even 3 hours of work and find out that this wasn’t important to our manager.
We will be on the same page as our manager and the results we are striving for are in line with what our manager is looking for. When we share what we are GOING to do in the future, our manager can approve, decline or make adjustments to the plan. No manager is going to say “yeah, I knew they were working on the wrong project 3 months ago, I just let them go ahead with it.”
Can our manager evangelize our work?
Without knowing what you are working on, our manager has no ammunition to defend how our time is being spent. They have no fodder to tell their peers or their VP what a great job we are doing.
Your manager can share what you are working on with the rest of the team, their peers, and their boss. They can share your hard work and accountability.
Does your manager understand your hard work?
If there were any snags or complications along the way, your manager will never know about the hard work you did to overcome the obstacle. All they will hear about is the result. The important part of accomplishment in corporate America isn’t completion, but how we overcame the obstacles. Anyone can finish a project in the best of conditions with a lot of funding. The employee’s everyone wants on their teams are the ones that overcame the hardship.
If there are snags or complications to the project, it is easy to bring our manager in for help. Leaders do not like surprises. They like to be kept informed and who doesn’t like to be part of a solution. If the manager is helping you solve a problem, they are engaged. Engagement is a good thing to have in a manager.
Not looking for Moon Shots
Don’t think you need to set or share herculean accomplishments that are going to be done in the future. Most managers just want small gains consistently met over time with predictability. They are not looking for home runs because they know that singles and doubles win games. Swinging for the fences on every bat will not win the game.
So, if telling others about your hard work, is difficult for you, try the above. Trust me, it isn’t bragging when you outline what you are going to do ahead of time and just provide updates along the way. Bragging isn’t about the “what we do”, it is about the “how we talk about what we did”
Next week, how to communicate your goals and the hard work invested to your manager with easy step by step directions.
See you at the after-party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.
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